Mass. Legislature abdicates moral leadership in budget deal

BOSTON, July 18, 2018 – Today the Conference Committee released its version of the FY2019 state budget, stripped of four provisions to protect immigrant families that the Massachusetts Senate had overwhelmingly approved in May.

Eva A. Millona, executive director of the MIRA Coalition, responded with the following statement:

“We are deeply disappointed. The Massachusetts Legislature had a prime opportunity to stand up for civil rights and human decency, and under political pressure from Governor Baker and conservative Democrats, it backed down. The safety and well-being of tens of thousands of immigrant families will suffer as a result.

“It is particularly disturbing that the Legislature succumbed to fear-mongering about ‘sanctuary’ policies. Though nothing in the four provisions approved by the Senate actually met the definition of ‘sanctuary’ used by U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, prominent House members embraced nativist propaganda misrepresenting those provisions, using the falsehoods as political cover for their inaction.

“We find it shocking that, with this agreement, the Legislature has tacitly accepted the notion that police should be able to ask people who ‘look foreign’ to show their papers before they can report a crime, and that immigrants should be kept in the dark about their legal rights, so it’s easier to deport them. The Legislature couldn’t even agree that Massachusetts should never contribute to a Muslim registry. That is stunning and embarrassing.

“Our country faces an existential crisis, and in the face of horrific abuses by the federal government, it is morally imperative for states to act to protect their most vulnerable residents. By failing to pass the Safe Communities Act, and now failing to pass even basic legal protections, the Legislature has abdicated its moral leadership, and failed a large share of its constituents.

“We will fight on, both at the local level and in the next legislative session. We will not rest until immigrants and their families feel safe calling 911, speaking to police and going about life in their communities, no matter where in Massachusetts they live.”